About Easy Stretch SA
Easy Stretch SA is the first stretching school in South Africa and was opened in 2017 by Lilyana Kamenovo. Lilyana is a professional tango dancer and a qualified ZST instructor. Her dancing led to tight hips abductors and flexors. Wanting to improve the flexibility in that area, she started exploring the Zaichik Stretching Technique (ZST), which is the technique that forms the basis of Easy Stretch SA.
The Zaichik Stretching Technique one of the most natural ways to stretch your body. Instead of stretching numerous muscles at once, it isolates muscles stretching one at a time. It allows you to focus on small muscles which are often neglected and improve both their strength and flexibility. Due to its isolated nature, it allows you to stretch deeper, pain free and improve flexibility faster.
Lillyana teaches all classes which are divided into group classes a few times a week and private lessons.
The group classes focus on four different groups of muscles. In every class, one muscle from each group is worked on. Every two weeks she switches the muscle of focus, allowing students time to learn how to stretch each muscle properly and allow the muscles time to safely open up.
The private lessons will depend on every individual and the areas they want to focus on.
What is Isolated Stretching and How is different from Active stretching like Yoga?
Lilyana believes that every form of stretching is beneficial. The only thing that is not beneficial is not stretching. Lilyana explained that when we are born, our muscle, ligaments and tendons are flexible. However, babies have no strength and with time as strength in the body is increased, some of the flexibility, which is not used is lost.
The tightness of muscles and fascia can cause problems later in life which is why stretching is so important. She doesn’t think of ZST as a substitute for yoga (or vice versa) but rather complimentary practices.
Yoga doesn’t just stretch the body. It balances the body energetically. ZST, on the other hand bypasses the mental and emotional blockage related to stretching.
Yoga adopts poses to increase self-awareness, focus and not only increases oxygen in the body though deeper breathing, but uses the breath to deepen the poses.
ZST isolates muscles to find your troublemakers and take care of them. The use of leverage and target actions increases flexibility painlessly and fast. By taking care of muscles individually, more balance between left and right, front and back, upper and lower body is created. Extended length conditioning and reciprocal inhibition, on the other hand, increase the strength within the flexibility range, so that the flexibility can be used when needed.
Easy Stretch SA is located in Randburg Johannesburg .
It’s R120 per group class and R550 for an individual lesson. However, Lillyana does provide discount packages which allows you to buy bulk classes for a reduced fee.
There are 3 discount deals in group classes which allow you to buy either 4, 8 or 12 classes a month for as littles as R60 a class (12 classes). There are 2 discount deals in private lessons which allow you to buy either 4 or 6 lessons for as little as R317 a lesson.
Easy Stretch SA is located in a small studio in a quiet suburban area of Randburg. There is a bathroom you can change in if need be as well as a toilet.
Wear something very comfortable that will allow you to stretch comfortably – either a pair of leggings and a top or sweatpants. I went in winter and the studio is cold and you don’t warm up to the point of being hot; wear warm layers like a sweatshirt / legwarmer to keep warm. If you tend to get hot easily, wear a thin top underneath. No shoes are worn during the class, but a pair of socks in winter is a must.
Good for Beginners?
Yes, it’s a low intensity class that can easily be adjusted to your own flexibility. No real fitness is required, but because it involves stretching you do need some form or flexibility. However, Lilyana was great at adjusting poses and providing straps to allow for those who aren’t as flexible as some moves required you to be.
When it comes to the private lesson, I’d recommend those more to someone who either has an injury that they’re looking to correct, is an avid or professional athlete who wants to focus on stretching as part of recovery or someone who is looking to gain flexibility, to allow them to do certain movements and requires help.
Lilyana is very friendly and welcoming. When it comes to private lessons, she encourages feedback and is happy for you to message on off days if you’re not sure of what to do /how a move should be done. As classes are smaller, they’re more intimate and allow for more chatter – but the class is friendly, welcoming and not cliquey at all.
The group classes are very small. Lilyana caps them at 8 people, but the one I went to on an early cold winter’s morning had just two of us in it.
Male / Female
The other person in my class was a man, so it was split 50/50 😉
No. While I defiantly stretched muscles more than I’m used to, I didn’t break into a sweat at all.
I tried out both a private lesson and a group class.
I started out with a private class and before the class, Lilyana messaged me to find out what area I wanted to work on and what my goal was. She explained that the private lessons are catered to each individual student and works best for athletes, those with past injuries, dancers, people who do sport, as well as yoga practitioners who want to improve a specific pose. Before a private lesson she makes sure she understands your goal so that she can prepare a lesson to achieve that.
I wanted to focus on my hips which are constantly tight and learn some moves to help relax and loosen them up. I arrived at the class and was given a pen and paper. It’s not a class you walk in, do as instructed and leave. It’s a lesson. Lilyana expects students to go home and do their homework – which is her stretching workout – in between lessons, and she sets aside time during the lesson to allow you to take notes of each move. She also encourages you to film moves, if you’ll find having a visual reminder easier once at home.
The lesson started with a warmup. We then moved on to the stretching and finally some strengthening moves. She explained that in order to be more flexible you need to strengthen those muscles. We focused on 4 areas – the rectus femurus, the fascia lata, hamstring and back fascia – all of these can affect hip tightness.
While the warmup included moves that I’m familiar with, the stretching wasn’t like the stretches I (try) do after a workout or a yoga class. They’re isolated stretches. She uses the Zaichik Stretching Technique, which targets one muscle at a time. She explained to me that in regular stretching you stretch groups of muscles at a time, but if one muscle is weak or tight the whole group will resist. The Zaichik Stretching Technique isolates muscles so you can work on those tight and weak muscles individually. It allows you to target muscles you usually ignore, make them stronger and thereby your body stronger, more flexible and less prone to injury. Each stretch consisted of small movements with a focus on form and pushing the muscles gently to go deeper on each move. I felt stretched in places I never knew could be stretched!
After doing 3 sets of stretches on each side we moved to strengthening exercises. Again, these were slight movements which isolated the muscle we wanted to work on and help strengthen. They’re designed to create the strength to allow you to go into certain ranges of motion and build useable flexibility. Despite the moves being ever so slight, they burned. She also put a huge emphasis on form and knee placement – as the knees are incredibly sensitive, bad form tends to affect them negatively.
Once we were done, she gave me “cheat cards” which had each move we did with a picture and instructions. She explained that for it to work, I need to work and that means doing these exercises 3 times a week. However, she said it’s important to leave a day in between sessions and not force or push your body. It’s not about drastic improvements in a day, it’s small consistent improvements that won’t leave you injured or sore.
After the class Lilyana followed up with me to see how it was going. After remarking that I noticed a slight groin niggle on a run, she told me to take the week off and only come to class when it went away and, in the meantime, only do the stretches that didn’t irritate it. It came as a surprise to me and I think this explains the goal of Easy Stretch – it’s not to take you to your breaking point, it’s not pushing for heavier weights, faster times or PBs, it’s learning to be gentle with yourself and patient in slowly strengthening and improving flexibility.
A week later I attended a group class. I happened on a day where there was only one other person, but as most classes are small, the experience will be similar.
In group classes there is a set structure (her timetable sets out what parts of the body you’ll be focusing on). It starts with a warmup up, stretches, strengthening and then relax time (which felt similar to shavasna after a yoga class).
The focus of the class I attended was on the lower body and hips and we worked a tiny muscle called the pectineous, a hip flexor that also acts as hip abductor. It’s on the inside of your thigh and when I press mine, it hurts because it’s so tight! The muscle is very small and difficult to access, so you have to turn out 45 degrees to stretch it. As such, the muscle barely ever gets attention. This was probably one of the most valuable stretches I learnt in the class. In general, she explained that the muscles in your hips are so small that to stretch them properly you need to adopt a particular position. Their size also means you need to be careful not to overstretch and to give your body a day in between to repair the torn fibres.
As classes are small, you do get attention and help where needed, but you don’t stop to take notes and the moves are more generalised than with the private classes.
The group classes are suited for anyone that doesn’t have a specific area of concern but is just looking for general flexibility or wants to prevent injuries.
Tips to Know Before Easy Stretch
Dress warmly in winter, classes are cold.
Bring your own exercise mat. If you don’t have one, there are extras.
If you’re doing a private class, bring your own notebook so that you can keep all your notes in one place.
Should Anyone Avoid Stretch SA
No, ZST is a conditioning technique that can assist with improving any action and help with better performance in any sport, dance of physical activity.
Most of us can use some added flexibility and spend time on dedicated stretching. However, I think a personal lesson is only worthwhile if you have a very specific target and goal in mind and have the dedication to go home in between lessons and do your homework. Without doing home sessions you’re probably not going to see the results.
The group classes are a better choice if you just want to learn how to stretch better, want improved flexibility or want to avoid injuries.
For more details on Easy Stretch SA and to book, click here
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.